Happy holidays! This week we’ll keep it short and sweet with a touch of humor. As I go about thinking of women in Jacksonville, many of the main players were the wives of famous men. Unlike their husbands, however, they left few records as to how they actually felt about their families, their marriages, and their roles in society. We always have to be careful to assume that money and prestige don’t necessarily equate with happiness. Continue reading
Last month, you read about women coming to Jacksonville in the 1830s to teach. This week, we’ll add one more to the list: Miss Caroline Blood. Her name first caught my eye when I found this ad, placed by Sarah Crocker in the Illinois Patriot on 19 October 1833. Just above it is an ad for an Infant School, taught by Miss Caroline Blood and held in the back of Mr. D.B. Ayre’s Druggist Shop (you may recall that Mr. Ayres was on the board of the JFA and later the superintendent of the Morgan County Alms House and Poor farm). More than a woman trying to get by through taking in young children, Miss Blood was an important player in a national movement to establish the first preschools and daycares in the United States. Continue reading
On November 1, 1848, twenty-two-year-old Mary Ann Lucas arrived the Morgan County Poor Farm, blind and destitute. Her widowed mother, Elizabeth, had fallen on hard times. It was up to her younger sister, nineteen-year-old Amanda Lucas, to support her mother, sister, and twelve-year-old brother, John.
By the end of November, Amanda accumulated a debt of $16.50. She purchased shoes, eight yards of calico, and 2 yards of domestic cloth from the merchant T.D. Eams. She also purchased eight yards print and 1/5 yards of domestic cloth from from James Dunlap. David W. Ayers gave her 25 cents to attend a concert, someone named McAllister simply gave her a $1 cash loan, and she hired someone else to do mending. To pay her debt, Morgan County ordered her to work for $1 per week at the county poor farm from December 1, 1848 until February 25, 1849, a total of 16 weeks and 3 days. Mary Ann was discharged on Christmas Eve, but Amanda stayed on two more months. Even as a native-born white female, Amanda would have struggled to find an adequate job to cover all of these expenses and the poor farm was likely her best bet. But you’ve read about this before. Here’s the twist…
One of my big questions in American Athena is: What happens when you have a community of educated females? Do women agitate for and enjoy more social, political, and economic rights? Does it affect how they shape their institutions and move in public spaces?